A day hike onto the flanks of Mount Rainier has turned fatal, with blizzard conditions killing one man and leaving two others stuck on the mountain.
Mount Rainier National Park officials this morning planned to try to rescue the two stranded hikers via helicopter.
Park rangers say the three -- two men and a woman -- planned a day hike Monday to Camp Muir, which stands at about 10,000 feet feet on the 14,410-foot mountain and has a shelter. However, a wintry storm that blew in pinned them down near that location. Park officials say the storm dumped 2 feet of snow and created 5-foot drifts at Paradise and generated winds of 70 mph at Camp Muir.
At 3:30 a.m. Tuesday the trio, which dug a snow shelter to avoid the brunt of the storm, managed to get through to park rangers with a 911 emergency call; but because of heavy snow and near zero visibility rangers were unable to safely initiate a search at that time. At about 7:15 a.m. one member of the party found his way to Camp Muir and was able to direct a search team, made up of climbing guides and park rangers stationed at Camp Muir, to the party’s location near Anvil Rock.
All three of the stranded hikers were under shelter at Camp Muir by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, though all suffered hypothermia and frostbite and one was unconscious and unresponsive and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
The man who died was the husband of the surviving woman. All three were in their early 30s and from Bellevue, Washington. They all were experienced mountaineers who had visited Camp Muir in the past and enjoy hiking on Mount Rainier. Two had reached the summit.
Because rangers didn't want to subject the two surviving hikers to more cold and snow, the preferred means of rescuing them will be by helicopter rather than across the snowfield. A Chinook helicopter and crew from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Lewis was on standby all day to retrieve the injured hikers, but the weather never cleared enough. The survivors’ conditions are stable at this time, and they are under the care of two doctors, clients of one of the park’s guide services, who happened to be at Camp Muir Tuesday night. The shelter at Camp Muir is warm, dry, and well-stocked with hot foods and liquids.